REGIONAL SILVERWARE: Members of the Trinidad and Tobago team pose with their Caribbean Table Tennis
Championship trophies and medals, in St Lucia, last Saturday. T&T earned three gold, three silver and four bronze medals.
Back row, from left, are Curtis Humphreys, Collin Cudjoe (manager), Dexter St Louis and David Mahabir. Front row, from left, are Jasher De Gannes, Aleena Edwards, Linda Partap-Boodhan, Reeza Burke (coach), Rheann Chung and
Alaric Humphreys. —Photo courtesy DEXTER ABBOTT
Turning negative into positive
St Louis dedicates fifth Caribbean title to detractor
Kwame Laurence email@example.com
Dexter St Louis was particularly motivated to win his fifth Caribbean Table Tennis Championship men’s singles title. And it showed in St Lucia, last week, Trinidad and Tobago’s best-ever player surrendering not a single game en route to gold.
“Last year, I more or less gave it away in the final, so this year I had extra motivation to try and win it back.
“And then too,” the France-based professional continued, “internal pressure, something I take and use as motivation. What I realise coming to play for T&T, only two people within the association are interested in me playing--Collin (Cudjoe) and Reeza (Burke). There were emails between other people on the executive, saying ‘don’t bring back Dexter...too old...too expensive.’ It wasn’t really pressure, but I used it as motivation.”
Burke is the president of the T&T Table Tennis Association (T&TTTA), while Cudjoe is the first vice-president. Burke was the coach of the T&T team in St Lucia, and Cudjoe was the manager.
St Louis said that T&TTTA treasurer Mujaahid Khan was among the officials who believed it was not wise to pay for a 45-year-old to fly from France to St Lucia to represent the country.
“To show that I’m so grateful, the men’s singles trophy I won, I gave it to Reeza and told him to give it to him (Khan). He really motivated me to try and win this one.
“In 1998, when I won for the first time, it was done in the same style--by not dropping a game in singles.”
T&T earned three titles at the 2013 Caribbean Championships: St Louis and his step-daughter, Rheann Chung teamed up for mixed doubles gold; Chung led T&T to victory in the women’s team event; and St Louis regained the men’s singles crown. Chung earned silver in the women’s singles event.
St Louis, who has signed a new contract with his French club Agen, said international retirement is not part of his plans.
“Playing for Trinidad and Tobago is always a pleasure. To keep playing for T&T depends on contract agreements in France. My new contract is for two years, but once the opportunity arises to play for the country I will not turn it down.”
Though St Louis played unbeaten in the men’s team event, T&T finished second. In the final, against Dominican Republic, he won his two matches in a 3-2 defeat.
“I knew it would have been complicated for Curtis Humphreys or Dave Mahabir to win a match. They had a stronger three than us.
“In T&T, we have to understand that we will not beat Santo Domingo (Dominican Republic) if we don’t work collectively. There are a lot of tribes all over the place, and all of them work in the best interest of their own players. When it comes to the Caribbean, the whole objective gets lost. Ian Joseph, Reeza, all who consider themselves coaches need to get together and figure out what we need to do to ensure we beat Santo Domingo.
“Imagine we’re going to Caribbean Champs this year, and only had four or five training sessions--not more than six--in two months. And we still come out with gold medals. Anthony Corbin (who lives in England) was here between July 31st and August 14th, and if I did not organise for him to practice with Curtis, that would not have happened and Curtis would not have benefitted. Imagine Aleena (Edwards) was on holidays from the end of July to August 14th.”
St Louis again emphasised the need for T&T coaches to work together in the interest of table tennis here.
“Ian Joseph was bickering in St Lucia. Dennis (La Rose) is forever grumbling. And the person suffering the most is Curtis. Within the table tennis fraternity the persons who suffer the most are those without political backing. Curtis really wants to do well, but needs to open his mouth and speak up. He’s a good guy and has improved a lot. I think he will be number one in T&T for years to come, and his brother (Alaric Humphreys) will be right behind him, but he needs more in terms of preparing for Caribbean Championships.
“It’s not about Hawks or Blasters or Crusaders or Petrotrin. It’s about country. Too many people in table tennis have too much personal objectives. There comes a time when we have to draw a line, go in another direction and work together. Rheann (Chung) and I train in Bordeaux with players from about five clubs, playing for many countries--Argentina, Mauritius, T&T...Liu Song is from Argentina, but we train together. He knocked me out at Pan Am Games, but we trained together for those Games.
“Players from T&T are not even competing against each other at Caribbean Championships, but don’t train together. When I was in Trinidad, we played in Tunapuna. We also played at the (Woodbrook) Youth Centre on a Sunday morning, and then, when Hawks trained in Arima at 2/2.30, we were up there too.
“I don’t see what is the problem,” St Louis continued, “if Hawks has practice on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, why Curtis can’t join them, and if Crusaders practice on Wednesday and Friday, why he can’t join them. Curtis is hungry and wants to do well. He’s also a very intelligent person, but in T&T if you’re not politically attached, nobody is prepared to say anything for you in a monthly meeting, and you suffer the most.”
From eight o’clock tonight, St Louis will be on show at the Diego Martin Central Community Centre, on Jasper Avenue in Diamond Vale. He plays an exhibition match against his former doubles partner, Anthony “Sandfly” Brown.
Always keen to give back to the sport, St Louis hosted a coaching clinic in Tacarigua last month.
Tomorrow morning, St Louis will be interviewed on CCN TV6 by “Sporting Edition” host Fazeer Mohammed. And later in the day, the talented southpaw will meet with Minister of Sport Anil Roberts.
“If a small group like us can’t benefit from someone like Anil, who knows and understands the problems of sport, I can’t see us benefitting from anyone. If we can fix our problems,” St Louis ended, “I don’t see why he would not give table tennis the assistance we need.”